The Bach Children's Chorus
Providing an incomparable musical experience for children of all ages
By Allison Winn, age 15
Do you ever wish you’d had more music in your life as a child? This seems to be a common regret for adults. A lot of people feel that during their childhood they were just too busy to fit in music between school, sports, and whatever else they did in their spare time. But being a part of a fabulous ensemble and getting a solid musical education is something that every child should experience.
I’ve been very lucky to experience this with the Bach Children's Chorus (BCC) since I was just starting kindergarten. This Scarborough choir is a perfect example of a group where children can receive a great musical education, form strong friendships, travel, and have many once-in-a-lifetime experiences. Led by conductor and artistic director Linda Beaupré, this wonderful ensemble is comprised of three groups of treble voices (Choirs I, II, and III), and one youth choir made up of girls aged sixteen and over, and boys with changed voices (the Bach Chamber Youth Choir). I have made my way through all these groups over the past 11 years, and I am now part of both Choir III and the Youth Choir.
I have participated in other musical activities in my life as well, such as piano lessons, band, and school choirs, but I can say for certain that there is no better place or way to get a truly fabulous all-round music education than a choir like the BCC. Because I was so young when I began, I learned musical skills the way children learn a new language; it was natural for me, really fun to do, and I think it helped me gain confidence in my abilities—something every child should have.
The choir has allowed me to meet other kids my age who share similar interests, and through my many years of rehearsals, tours, concerts, and workshops, I have formed some of my greatest friendships. Despite their diverse backgrounds, the kids in the Bach Children's Chorus all get along because they are united by their love of singing. Singing in a choir like this is not just another activity kids do, like taking piano or swimming lessons. Being in a choir means being part of a musical team; to achieve success and the pride that comes along with it, great collaboration and respect for one another are required, and working together like this creates a sense of belonging for everyone.
Travelling is always so nice when you get to go with your friends, see new places, and meet people from all around the world who share your love of choral music. I had the pleasure of visiting San Francisco in 2012 for the International Golden Gate Festival, and it was one of the most amazing experiences I’ve ever had. The only thing that compares for me was the tour I did with the BCC the next year, which was to the International Choral Festival in Missoula, Montana. At both of these festivals, there were about 20 other participating choirs from Estonia, China, Costa Rica, and many other countries. It was really neat seeing all those other kids my age, who shared my passion for music, and had very similar choral experiences to mine, but who lived halfway across the world from me. I will never forget those tours.
Although the BCC is such a professional organization and a lot is expected from its members, it is also so much fun, and has never felt like a major commitment to me; right from the start, rehearsals quickly became the highlight of my week. The great thing about a choir like this is that no matter what kind of day you have had or how you feel going into rehearsal, it's impossible to leave without a big smile on your face, humming great tunes the whole way home. It’s nice, too, for the carpooling parents driving home, since they often get their own spontaneous little concert from the kids.
Another one of my favourite things about the Bach Children’s Chorus is the gratification you feel when you get to move up to the next group. I’ve found that it’s not only the conductor’s recognition of your increased musical maturity that is the satisfying part of advancing to the next level, but also the fact that there’s a different thing waiting for you each time you do.
Choir I (ages 6 to about 8) is a great introduction to choral music, and teaches you the basics of how to be a performer, follow the conductor, and sing as part of a group.
When you are moved up to Choir II (ages 8 to about 10), the most exciting part is that you get your own music folder, which has your name embossed on it! It doesn’t get more professional than that. On top of that, you get to do choreography workshops, start travelling a bit, and you work with other choirs and clinicians, which is always interesting.
Probably the biggest advancement is moving up to Choir III (ages roughly 10 to 15). This is the group that does more extensive travelling (within Canada, and sometimes even further), and all the extra special concerts. Choir III has sung at the Olympics in Atlanta, with Michael Bublé on t.v., and at many weddings, to name just a few of its special opportunities. This ensemble is really where you learn to sight-read music at a very fast pace, simply because of the immense volume of tough repertoire you have to cover in limited time. It’s a great challenge, and a very rewarding one.
The Bach Chamber Youth Choir (high school and university age) reaches yet another level because here, you finally get to experience a choir with different types of voices—not just trebles. You get to work on different—often harder—types of music because the arrangements are geared to adult choirs, unlike the music that the other groups perform.
It has become a tradition that at the choir's annual Christmas concert, certificates are distributed to the dedicated choir members who have sung with the BCC for five, ten, or even fifteen years. I was thrilled to receive my 10-year certificate this past Christmas; it really made me proud of everything I have learned in the choir, and hopefully contributed to it over the past 10 years. Receiving a certificate is something every chorister aspires to, because it really feels as if you are marking a tremendous accomplishment.
The Bach Children’s Chorus has been a great experience for me, and I’m so glad I have spent such a big part of my childhood singing in this organization. Come see us in our final concert of the season on May 9 at 7:30 pm at the Toronto Centre for the Arts. We are working hard to make this performance (entitled Sing It High! Sing It Low!) a truly wonderful evening for all who attend.